The seed of the idea of expanding Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Springfield first took root 15 years ago or more. On Sunday, Oct. 24, the idea fully blossomed as Bishop J. Mark Spalding blessed the new entrance and addition to the church, the first expansion of the building since it was dedicated in 1962.
“It surely is a blessing from God,” said Father Anthony Lopez, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Besides providing a new entryway into the church, the expansion project included a narthex that can be used as a gathering space, bathrooms, a bride’s room, a cry room with a television monitor to watch Mass, and seating for an additional 45-50 people.
The front of the church is now a large glass wall through which passersby can see the statue of the Blessed Mother, which originally was located on the front wall of the church, on a stone wall illuminated by a spotlight.
The scene evokes the look of the grotto in Lourdes, France, where the Blessed Mother first appeared to St. Bernadette.
“We were inspired to glorify and honor Mary,” said David Johnson, president of the Parish Council. “We wanted to highlight her. … Any time you pass the church, you’ll see Our Lady.”
The project to expand the church, which had long been discussed, took on new momentum after Father Lopez arrived as the pastor.
The parish commissioned detailed drawings for the project and presented its plans to Bishop Spalding and the Diocese of Nashville for approval. The project was approved, and the diocese provided $150,000 toward the cost of construction and $10,000 for additional pews.
The diocese’s support allowed the parish to pursue the project in earnest, Johnson said. “Otherwise, we would have been walking in mud for a while.”
The parish began fundraising with a goal of $150,000.
“It’s been an incredibly collaborative effort,” bringing together the parish’s Anglo community and its growing Hispanic community, said Mark Kuzma, the president of the of the parish Finance Committee.
“Both communities, the Anglo community and the Hispanic community, bonded together in a spirit of communion to work toward the goal,” Father Lopez said.
While thanking everyone who contributed to the project’s success, Kuzma highlighted Johnson and his wife Mandee, who is the parish office manager, “for the phenomenal work and effort” they put into making the expansion a reality.
At the Easter Mass this year, Father Lopez announced that the parish had raised 50 percent of its goal, allowing for construction to start in May. The project was designed by architect John F. Werne III of Ashland City, and the contractor was Five Star Building Group of Springfield.
At the end of the Mass on Oct. 24, Father Lopez announced that the parish had exceeded its fundraising goal with a total of $171,900.
“There are no words to express what I feel, what we all feel for what we’ve accomplished,” Father Lopez said at the Mass. “Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this project, including our Blessed Mother. … We thank God for all of this.”
The fundraising effort came amidst the pandemic, Kuzma noted. As the small parish was raising money for the expansion, weekly collections during 2021 have not only exceeded last year’s totals, but also the collections during 2019 before the pandemic hit, he said, calling it “absolutely remarkable.”
The total cost of the project is estimated to be about $480,000. With the money from the parish’s fundraising, along with the diocese’s contribution and money from the parish’s savings, the project will be completely paid for by next year, Kuzma said.
The expansion has long been needed, said Freida Couts, who grew up in the parish and has been a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes for 68 years. Before, parents would have to leave Mass to take their children across the parking lot to the parish hall to go to the bathroom, she noted.
The new bride’s room will be more convenient for the wedding parties and the Hispanic families holding a Quinceañera for their teen daughters, Father Lopez said.
The project also included soundproofing the confessionals in the church, installing lights to indicate when the confessionals are in use, landscaping and a new sign at the front of the property.
“It’s great to have this. It’s a blessing,” said Couts, who is a member of the parish’s Finance Committee and a former member of the Parish Council. “It was truly God’s will that we have this.”
The new narthex will allow people to gather without impacting or interrupting what goes on in the sanctuary, Kuzma said. We now have the ability … for people to gather without impacting what goes on in the church. “It gives us hope for what we can do going forward in regards to gatherings.”
The parish is growing, particularly among the Hispanic community, Father Lopez said. The parish has two Masses in Spanish and two in English each weekend. “We now have the seating capacity to accommodate them,” Father Lopez said.
“It’s a big project for the parish,” Johnson said. “It helps to unify our parish to go through a big project like that, the Anglo and Hispanic communities pulling their resources together to make that happen, with the intercession of Our lady who helped us to see it through.”
Father Lopez also expressed gratitude to “our Blessed Mother for all the graces she has bestowed upon us through her son, Jesus Christ.
“We love Mary. We love our church, and we praise God … for giving the people here the heart of servants in this fashion to glorify him and praise him always and to draw more people to himself with the revelation of the truth of our faith.”